The String of Pearls; or, the Barber of Fleet Street
This was the story that first introduced the character of Sweeney Todd, the Fleet Street barber who robbed and murdered his customers. His accomplice, Margery Lovett, turned them into pies in the shop next door, sold to unsuspecting Londoners.
The String of Pearls was first published in 18 parts in 1846–47 by the leading producer of penny dreadfuls, Edward Lloyd (1815–1890). Several authors probably worked on the various parts, with James Malcolm Rymer (1814–1884) often getting the main credit. ‘Penny dreadfuls’ were shocking and sensational popular books, published in cheap serialised parts costing a penny.
Similar urban legends involving gruesomely sourced fast-food had circulated for decades, but the story of Todd has perhaps been the most enduring. The tale’s popularity resulted in reprints, imitations, and stage adaptations (and much later, musicals). This updated and expanded collection, from 1850, shows that issue 1 included issues 2, 3 and 4 free.
- Full title:
- The String of pearls; or, The Barber of Fleet Street. A domestic romance.
- estimated 1850 , Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, London
- Penny dreadful / Illustration / Image
- James Malcolm Rymer
- Held by:
- British Library
- Usage Terms:
- Free from known copyright restrictions
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- Popular culture, Crime and crime fiction, Reading and print culture
The penny dreadful was a 19th-century publishing phenomenon. Judith Flanders explains what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public.